Split Rock Exclusive: Meghan Shader a One-Woman-Show as Groom, Trainer, Competitor, Winner

After taking some time away from the show ring as a competitor, Meghan Shader is returning with a vengeance and having a ball in the process. Jumper Nation caught up with Meghan after her win in the $2,000 Visit Lex Medium 1.30m Junior/Amateur Jumper class at The Split Rock Jumping Tour this weekend to share her path to success.

Return to Split Rock

Meghan knew after watching her horse show in the Sunday Grand Prix at Split Rock last year with coach Ben Meredith that she would definitely be returning to try it herself someday. “It is such a fun and well run show and I have been excited to come back all year,” Meghan told JN. “Everyone is extremely friendly and helpful and it’s clear when you are here that every detail has been thought through.  It is truly a one of a kind experience and they make every competitor feel special.”

If there is one thing that many of the Split Rock competitors continue to share, it is that the Split Rock Jumping Tour has an environment all its own in a way that all of them appreciate.

“It’s small things like having a riders meeting (including a bar), shavings already in the stalls when you arrive, or having coolers of water on every corner that really set the show apart.  The prize-giving ceremonies for every class make the entire show seem like a special event that I would compare to Spruce Meadows but significantly less intimidating.”

Meghan and Anabelle. Photo by Kaitlyn Karssen Photography

A Rider that Does it All

A Lexington resident, Meghan stables her horses at Lauren Hester’s gorgeous Hilaur Farm. Aside from the occasional assistance from friend and pro Mavis Spencer, Meghan has been charting her own path and showing without a trainer. In the past, Meghan and has trained with Ben Meredith and Andrew Welles, and has also dabbled in polo to take a horse-related break from show-jumping.

While much of her competition was sorting out their plan of action the morning of their class, Meghan was preparing in a different way. “I take care of my own horses so most of my morning was spent making sure my horse was ready for her class and making sure my other horse was all set until I could get back in the afternoon.  I made sure she stretched her legs in the morning, braided her and then I left a few minutes to watch the class before, to switch myself over from grooming mode to riding.”

Meghan and Anabelle 28 showing at the Kentucky Horse Park just a few weeks before their victory at Split Rock

Of course, she gets a little help here and there from loving and supportive friends and family. “Before walking into the ring, I went over a few things with Mavis and that was it.  Luckily for me my fiancé is a good sport and when he has time, he helps me out by setting jumps for me and keeping me sane,” she joked.

Getting to the Victory Gallop

“I thought the course was excellent that day.  There were plenty of options for inside turns and places to leave out strides in the speed portion of the class, which made it very competitive,” Meghan said of the course designed by Guilherme Jorge who was the course designer for the 2016 Rio Olympics. “I spent a lot of time going back and forth thinking about if some of the inside turns were faster or if galloping around was the better option, so the course was great in making you think of all the options.”

The 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare Anabelle 28 (by Kashmir van’t Schuttershof) was Meghan’s mount of choice for the 1.30 class at Split Rock. “I’ve owned her for three years now and when we imported her I started showing her in the high amateur owners and young rider classes in Wellington.  In order to develop her further I handed the reins over to Ben Meredith and he competed her in Grand Prix classes around the country and I was her groom during that time period.”

Recently, Meghan began showing Annabelle and her other horse Little Gun 17 again. “As a rider, the most difficult part of owning sale horses for me is sometimes realizing that the horse could do more or have greater success with another rider.  Luckily that strategy has led to both of my horses having plenty of success and completely exceeding my expectations.  That being said, I’m really excited to get to be the person riding them again now that they are both developed,” Meghan shared.

Celebrating their victory. Photo by Kaitlyn Karssen Photography

With the right plan in place, Meghan and Anabelle were able to capitalize on that additional training time by taking home the blue ribbon at Split Rock. “She is the most sensible horse I’ve ever owned and is a dream to work around,” she said of the bay mare who rode through the rain as if it was not a factor. “She is the kind of horse that can jump in a big class and be ridden home bareback with a halter.  She is such a competitive horse and I’m excited to be along for the ride with her.”

Having Fun Along the Way

With a great start to the 2017 show year, Meghan aims to continue showing consistently with both of her horses and hopefully repeat the success she had at Split Rock this weekend. “I would love to get back into the highs or bigger classes with Anabelle, she is more than capable she is just waiting on me to get back to that level,” Meghan said.

As she strives to meet her own goals, she isn’t placing any pressure on herself or her horses. Her ultimate plan is one we all need to keep in mind in the arena. “As of right now my biggest goal is to keep improving every round little by little and to have fun while doing it.”

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